The Austin Chronicle

Forever Dumb

Beavis and Butt-head are back

By Cindy Widner, October 28, 2011, Screens

It can be easy to forget that Mike Judge's current career started with Beavis and Butt-Head, MTV's Nineties series (and later movie) that featured two animated miscreants and their running commentary on music videos. What he followed that with, after all, were some of the smartest, subtlest, and most culturally astute comedies of our time, including Office Space, Idiocracy, and animated TV series King of the Hill – works so subtle, in fact, that it took a while for them to sink in. The popularity of the movies, in particular, grew larger as they moved into the realm of home viewing and classic cult films, whose brilliance is best revealed through repeated screenings and shared fandom.

But it's also easy to see why Beavis and Butt-Head is Judge's most popular creation, as well as why he calls it in recent interviews, "the funniest thing I've ever done." The series, which MTV and Judge are reviving with all-new episodes, is the id to Office Space or King of the Hill's superegos: gut-punch humor aimed directly at the animal brain, delivering social commentary via time-honored bastions of arrested development – sex, violence, crude mockery, and fart jokes. Somehow, these dumbasses mocking other dumbasses cut straight through our putative maturity to our inner adolescence, no matter how buried, and pulled it to the surface in the form of sustained, stomach-clutching guffaws.

The world in which Beavis and Butt-Head resurfaces, 14 years later, is both cruder and more uptight, but the dudes seem to be rolling with the changes. In premiere episode "Werewolves of Highland," the duo tries to jump on the Twilight bandwagon to get laid. They quickly decide that "any undead will get us sex" and convince a homeless fellow they think is a werewolf to bite them. In short order, infected with hepatitis and covered with sores, they do indeed look like some kind of undead. Shifting off of the couch with some difficulty, Beavis wheezes, "Let's go get some girls."

During its last run, the show mixed its storylines with music videos over which the duo kept a running commentary. This time, reality shows are up for grabs, and it's here where the two are at their most incisive, subversive best. Of Jersey Shore's attempt at a who's-been-with-whom chart, they observe: "This is like a family tree, if your family were made of whores. If they made this tree long enough, you could find out where herpes began." Of 16 and Pregnant: "The people on these shows are all poor and living with their grandmas, and their mouths are always open."

Not that they're not fully capable of reviving their old music-video tricks. Of one that features video vixens in "construction wear," writhing and shaking with power tools, Butt-Head says, "This is what happens when hot girls don't go to college." Let's hope these two knuckleheads stay just as dumb.

The new Beavis and Butt-Head premieres Thursday, Oct. 27, at 9pm on MTV.

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